PRIME Minister Rishi Sunak is right – China is creating a world of “danger, division and disorder”.
It is truly a threat to our interests, perhaps the biggest state threat.
Ruled by President Xi Jinping, China’s aim is to wreak havoc by tearing up the rule book the rest of the world lives by.
Those conventions include free trade, freedom of navigation, freedom of the seas, international law and proper commercial relations between free societies.
Established 300 years ago by maritime nations the Dutch, the British and then the Americas, the rules have served us well.
Now China — and Russia — are acting like Germany, Italy and Japan in the 1930s.
They are what are called revisionist powers, they want to change the world order to skew things in their favour.
Last month, ex-head of MI6 Sir Alex Younger warned that the UK must “wake up” to the threat posed by China to global security.
It is already waging a subtle war with us, one in which we are all complicit to some degree.
The Chinese are collecting intelligence on an industrial scale.
We don’t know what they’re doing with it but they hoover up everything on the assumption that somehow they will find a way of using it.
Even your kids are not safe from this data mine.
We all now know that video-sharing site TikTok is potentially harvesting our data (no wonder Sunak has indicated it may be banned from Government devices — it already is in the US).
Another front is thought to be through the use of drones, the kind you buy from your local computer store and the sort your kids play with in the garden.
These Chinese-made devices could become data mines.
When you update their software, all the information it has collected could go straight to Shanghai.
That may include pictures of your neighbour’s back garden and it can all be sifted with modern AI techniques.
So information on Britain’s streets and infrastructure has the potential to be gathered and stored.
Whether they can use all this, we don’t know, but any intention to collect it suggests potentially malign intent.
In 2017 China passed its National Security Law that says every single Chinese company, entity and citizen can be compelled to assist their intelligence services.
So any Chinese student studying at university over here, for instance, can be told to come into the Chinese embassy for a little chat.
They are legally obliged to say who their friends are, what they do and who they meet.
So China is collecting every bit of information they can about the rest of us.
We must be prepared for whatever this may turn into.
It’s why the so-called AUKUS pact signed this week between Britain, the US and Australia is a bold statement of intent by the three allies.
On Monday the Prime Minister was in San Diego alongside President Joe Biden and Australian PM Anthony Albanese to welcome the deal.
From 2027, the UK and US will base nuclear-powered submarines in Perth, Western Australia.
Later, the Aussies will get their own fleet of subs using British and US know-how.
Then the UK will also add a new nuclear-powered submarine class to its Navy, SSN-Aukus.
The message to China is clear: We’re not frightened of you.
It is a big military step and counters the fact China is trying to dominate the whole of the Pacific region.
Increasing maritime power — and tilting to the Indo-Pacific — makes perfect sense for Britain.
In the next two decades, 90 per cent of growth in world trade will be in Asia.
AUKUS represents long-term strategic thinking.
The pact takes to the 2040s the idea that Britain, Australia and America should jointly deploy some of their submarine forces to counter Chinese expansion in the whole of the Pacific area.
I credit both former PM Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak for seizing the opportunity to sign this deal.
It is good news for Britain in almost every respect. It’s a big project for industry.
Derby-based Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, will do very well out of this.
Related industries will get a huge boost too.
The huge investment in AUKUS — mainly by the Australians — is welcome.
More investment is needed in Britain’s defence budget.
The extra £5billion over two years promised this week is a start, but those who argue it is not enough do have a point.
Defence spending must be a priority in this increasingly dangerous world.
The more we spend, the better our defence will be.
It is as simple as that.
But the West’s face-off with China isn’t an arms race like the 20th century Cold War with the Soviet Union.
China is deeply engaged in our economies, unlike the Soviets.
We can’t just isolate them and pretend they do not exist or just have the rest of the world dealing among ourselves.
That’s what we did in the Cold War because the Soviet Union was actually very weak.
China is potentially much stronger.
We don’t want to get into outright hostility, but equally we don’t want to be bullied by them.
So we need to establish a sensible line which says: We will stand up to you where we think you’re bullying us or threatening our interests.
We don’t accept your revisionism, we don’t accept you are right in trying to undermine the rules of the international system.
We of course want to deal in a civilised way with China.
If they play by the rules we welcome doing business with them.